I’ve mentioned in a previous post on McLaren Spa Updates that McLaren is possibly using Flexi front wing. The flexi part is not new to F1 cars – Red Bull used it back in 2010, other teams tried on this principle as well although not all of them achieved preferable results.
How it works?
Basically, at moderate speed, the front wing runs at a relatively high angle of attack, maximizing downforce generated. At high speeds (long straights), the outer part of the wing tilts pack, reducing AoA, therefore reducing both downforce and drag (Although Research on Honda 2007 shows that there is scarce decrease in drag, although downforce deduction is noticeable). The shedding of downforce promotes better aero balance of the car – as what Mercedes want to achieve with their FW DDRS system. Flexi front wing also helps guiding the air around the wheel inward underneath the car, subsequently enhancing diffuser performance.
While Adrian Newey highlighted the loss of downforce due to ban of EBD as their major problem this year, the Flexi front wing should be one of the compensation they found.
In this December’s Racecar Engineering there is an interesting article regarding the composites used for flexi front wing. Basically, teams are using FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to evaluate material deformation under loading – they’re seeking for an optimised aerodynamics design that could meet all the FIA crash test requirements.
Front wing flexing back as shown in the green curve
As illustrated in the picture above, flexi wing can have less bending deformation and more twisting/tilting at the rear of the wing.
What about RB8 Flexi Front Wing?
RB8’s new front package is actually quite unique – in additioin to the wing flexing, they seem to have a rubber nose that can deform/tilt under loading. This pitstop from Vettle in Abu Dhabi caused lots of discussion as the mechanicseem to flex the nose when removing it.
However Vettle’s front wing was slightly damaged at that point, which may exagerate the nose tilting observed. Another GIF from Webber during the race does show quite large oscillation of the front wing as it goes through kerbs.
Webber’s front wing oscillating in Abu Dhabi
Generally speaking, RB8 now has a really flexible front package – the tip of nosecone can bend downwards, also the outer section of front wing tilts back at high-speed.
Besides the benefit of downforce reduction and airflow enhancement around/underneath the car, Red Bull’s rubber nosecone may also create a mass damper effect, whereby car bounce is deducted, enhancing chasis stability.
The mass damper effect is well demonstrated in the video below, as can be seen, with a mass damper extended out, bumping on the main structure is significantly reduced.
The mass damper idea is not new to F1 – used by Renault back in 2005, although it’s later banned by FIA in 2007 (More to read if you’re interested in mass damper effect: J-dampers in Formula One). However, Red Bull’s Flexi front wing is an innovative idea extending this principal. The improvement of chasis stability also supports more stable aerodynamic performance for RB8.